According to this story from the Washington Post, a decade after the Supreme Court struck down Washington D.C.’s long-standing ban on handguns as unconstitutional, the city is again at the forefront of Second Amendment battle.
This time, the fight isn’t over handgun ownership, but over the right to carry a gun for self defense.
The story says that a series of victories in the District have been won for gun rights since the 2008 ruling, and that pending cases have drawn the attention of gun rights groups and Republican attorneys general from more than a dozen states who are part of the group asking federal judges to find Washington’s restrictions on concealed-carry unconstitutional.
The Columbia v. Heller decision in 2008 by the Supreme Court used a D.C. case to declare that individuals have the right to gun ownership apart from military service, which cleared the way for D.C. residents to keep handguns in their homes and is also driving the attempted expansion of the right to carry in the District, the story says.
The city’s current system requires residents to demonstrate a “good reason to fear injury” or to show “proper reason,” such as transporting valuables, to get a carry permit.
“Two judges sitting in the same federal court for the District have reached different conclusions about the key component of the city’s gun-control law. The D.C. Circuit has consolidated those challenges that a three-judge panel will consider on Sept. 20.
“D.C. officials say the restrictions are reasonable and necessary in a city that struggles with gun violence and faces heightened security challenges because of a concentration of federal government buildings and diplomats.
“The District’s concealed-carry rules are similar to those in Maryland, New Jersey, New York and some jurisdictions in California. Those systems have survived legal challenges in three other federal appeals courts.”
Since the Heller decision, the Supreme Court has carefully avoided many opportunities to decide whether or not carrying a firearm in public is constitutional, leaving it for the lower courts to interpret.
“The question of whether and to what extent the Second Amendment extends into a right to carry guns into public spaces is probably the most important constitutional question that could affect American gun policy since Heller,” said Johnathan E. Lowy of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence in the story.
One of the decisions up for review is U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly left the city’s restrictive laws in place, saying the potential risk of people carrying firearms was too great.
Two months later, Judge Richard J. Leon, sitting on the same court, said in the second pending case that the city’s law is probably unconstitutional, calling the District’s restrictions on public carry “overzealous” and that the rules violate the “core right of self-defense.”
The story says the three judges who will hear the appeals were nominated to the federal bench by Republican presidents, including two nominated by George W. Bush.
They are Judge Thomas B. Griffith, Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson, and Stephan F. Williams, who was nominated by Ronald Reagan.
“Telling a citizen walking the streets of a dangerous neighborhood that she can obtain a permit for self-defense after she is suddenly attacked by a violent criminal is a bit like telling a passenger on a cruise ship that she is free to come back to the dock to pick up a life jacket if she falls overboard,” says a brief filed on behalf of the National Rifle Association by attorney Paul D. Clement, the story says.